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Tom Engelhardt 219

January 26, 2016

Tomgram: William Astore, A Violent Cesspool of Our Own Making


It was a moment few noticed on Inauguration Day.  It took place just before Donald Trump praised Hillary Clinton to the applause of those assembled for the Inaugural Luncheon. Standing at the microphone, the new president turned, looked toward a table somewhere in the room, and said, “We have so many of our cabinet members here. I see my generals.  Generals [who] are going to keep us so safe. They’re going to have a lot of problems [on?] the other side. A couple of them, these are central casting. If I’m doing a movie, I’d pick you generals. General [James] Mattis, who is doing really well.  Even Chuck [Schumer] likes General Mattis. And General [John] Kelly...” Assumedly retired Lieutenant General Mike Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, was also sitting there, with his nominees for secretary of defense and head of the Department of Homeland Security, both confirmed by the Senate that very day.

As with so much that’s Trumpian, however, you can’t simply look at his stream-of-consciousness words as they appear -- always somewhat incoherently -- on the page.  You need to note his tone of voice, in this case the almost eroticized possessive pronoun, “my generals,” and the sense of near-awe and self-satisfaction that went with it.  Now, pair that reverence for his choices and hisgenerals with the instantly reconfigured WhiteHouse.govwebpage. On Inauguration Day, it promptly lost all its references to climate change, and its sections on the LGBT community and civil rights, but gained a new section on The Donald’s America First Energy Plan (“For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry...”) and another touting an America First Foreign Policy. From that one, you can already learn something about what “my generals” are going to be doing in the age of Trump. (“Defeating ISIS and other radical Islamic terror groups will be our highest priority. To defeat and destroy these groups, we will pursue aggressive joint and coalition military operations when necessary.”) Also emphasized were the many taxpayer dollars to be invested in giving those generals plenty to do it with. (“[W]e will rebuild the American military. Our Navy has shrunk from more than 500 ships in 1991 to 275 in 2016. Our Air Force is roughly one third smaller than in 1991. President Trump is committed to reversing this trend, because he knows that our military dominance must be unquestioned.”) And as a final nostalgic touch for a man who wants to make American great again, it looks like one of the true boondoggles of the military-industrial complex, dubbed “Star Wars” back in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, will return to Washington in the age of Trump -- developing a “state of the art missile defense system to protect against missile-based attacks from states like Iran and North Korea.”

Now, as to that movie Donald Trump would like to make with those generals from central casting and all those dollars heading for the Pentagon and those missiles to come: Why not call it American Carnage? As retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel William Astore, a TomDispatch regular, points out today, this country is already well primed for just such a grim project. Tom

The Dark [K]night of Donald Trump
Weapons, Warriors, and Fear as the New Order in America 


By William J. Astore

I came of age during America's Cold War with the Soviet Union, witnessing its denouement while serving in the U.S. military. In those days, the USSR led the world's weapons trade, providing arms to the Warsaw Pact (the military alliance it dominated) as well as to client states like Cuba, Egypt, and Syria. The United States usually came in second in arms dealing, a dubious silver medal that could, at least, be rationalized as a justifiable response to Soviet aggression, part of the necessary price for a longstanding policy of “containment.” In 1983, President Ronald Reagan had dubbed the Soviet Union an "evil empire" in part because of its militarism and aggressive push to sell weaponry around the globe, often accompanied by Soviet troops, ostensibly as trainers and advisers.
After the USSR imploded in 1991, dominating the world’s arms trade somehow came to seem so much less evil. In fact, faced with large trade deficits, a powerful military-industrial complex looking for markets, and ever more global military commitments, Washington actively sought to promote and sell American-made weaponry on a remarkable scale. And in that it succeeded admirably.
Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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